Things are heating up in the UK over the marriage equality bill for England and Wales.
Pink News is liveblogging the debate.
Pink News reports:
Three Tory MPs – Tim Loughton, Charlotte Leslie and Rob Wilson – are pushing for civil partnerships to be an option for heterosexual couples in an amendment as part of this week’s third reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. But in February’s second reading Mr Loughton, a former children’s minister voted against marriage rights for gay couples, and Ms Leslie and Mr Wilson abstained. Labour is set to support Mr Loughton’s amendment. However, some in Westminster fear the amendment is an attempt to “wreck the bill” because it could delay its passage beyond the 2015 general election.
The problem? Such an amendment would open the bill u again for public comment, which could add another two years to the process. Bloomberg reports:
One of the amendments put down for debate involves extending civil partnerships to heterosexual couples, which the government said could delay the bill by two years as the public is consulted further. Culture Secretary Maria Miller said the amendment “would throw up significant challenges,” calling it a “complication that is not necessary at this point in time.” Tim Loughton, a Conservative opponent of gay marriage who tabled the amendment, denied it was aimed at “wrecking” the bill. “This bill, whatever we think about it, introduces a glaring inequality,” he told the BBC. “If it goes through, as I’m sure it will, then opposite-sex couples will only have access to marriage, but same-sex couples will not have access to the new form of marriage and civil partnerships.”
The Prime Minister is against the amendment. The Independent reports:
David Cameron will tonight take on traditionalist Conservative MPs who are trying to sabotage his plans to legalise gay marriage in the latest trial of strength between the Prime Minister and his backbenchers. Mr Cameron will vote against a wrecking amendment which could delay or even scupper the Marriage (Same Sex) Couples Bill by extending to heterosexual couples the right to enter civil partnerships. If passed, the amendment could cost taxpayers billions of pounds in pension liabilities and delay the implementation of gay marriages for two years.
Both sides are playing chicken. Pink News reports:
The Government may withdraw its support for the pending equal marriage bill for England and Wales, if an amendment to allow civil partnerships to straight couples passes. A Downing Street source told PinkNews.co.uk that, if an amendment put forward by Tim Loughton, which would extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples, were to pass, the Government may pull its support for the Marriage (Same Sex couples) Bill. The source said no option could be ruled out over the bill, until after the vote on the amendment.
There’s also the cost – up to 4 Billion Pounds. The Guardian reports:
DWP pensions minister Steve Webb has reported that this legislative addition is going to cost a lot of money – #4bn to be precise – in associated pension costs. The figure first cropped up last week in the human rights committee hearing when Steve Webb was giving testimony. My colleague Caroline Davies was one of those to pick up on it whilst covering it last Tuesday. We have costed that at roughly a #3bn-#4bn cost to public service pension schemes,” Webb said. So if MP’s want civil partnerships to be extended to all couples, the government has warned the whole bill will be unaffordable and will have to be shelved for the meantime.
One of Cameron’s conservative MP’s had good things to say about the Prime Minister’s leadership on the issue. Pink News reports:
In an exclusive interview with PinkNews.co.uk, the Conservative MP for Reigate and former Prisons and Youth Justice minister, Crispin Blunt, says David Cameron has shown “fantastic leadership” on equal marriage. … “I sincerely hope that the LGBT community – and I think they do actually understand just exactly what his commitment is to it – but there is a limit for him to go on provoking elements of his own party who are unhappy with this just for the hell of it. He’s made his point, everyone knows the fire he’s going through with some of his own colleagues in order to deliver this and I hope people are going to be appropriately grateful for the fantastic leadership that he’s shown on this.”
MP Lynn Featherstone, a champion of the marriage equality bill, questions this sudden desire for equality. Pink News reports:
However, there are two that I would normally not hesitate to support. I am in favour of humanist weddings and opposite-sex Civil Partnerships. However, in the case of the opposite sex Civil Partnership proposals it’s a matter of beware opponents bearing gifts – for the people pushing this change are not those with records of supporting equality and marriage rules that accommodate a diversity of couples. No, instead the proposals are coming from the likes of Tim Loughton and others who are avowed and determined opponents of equal marriage.
Both the marriage equality bill and the civil paetnerships for straight couples amendment have support from the British public. Gay Star News reports:
The survey found 54% of Britons support same sex marriage legislation, with 36% opposed. Among Conservatives, more people oppose the measures than support them but the margin is narrow (48% to 45%). And 64% of Britons support opening up civil partnerships to straight couples. Heterosexuals in a relationship were the most likely to back the change (73% supportive).
The amendment also enjoys strong support among MPs. Pink News reports:
A new ComRes survey of 159 MPs, conducted over the past month, has found overwhelming parliamentary support for the amendment to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, championed by Tim Loughton MP, which would extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples. The poll found that more than seven in ten MPs from all main parties support extending civil partnerships to opposite sex couples. A separate public poll suggests support for same-sex marriage could be affected if the Government’s proposals to legalise same sex marriage is not seen to be ‘equal’ in their treatment of opposite sex couples by failing to extend civil partnerships. The poll found that more than six in ten people who supported legalising same sex marriage said they would support it ‘only if couples of the opposite sex also get the right to enter into a civil partnership if they wish’.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has flipped against civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples. Pink News reports:
In a u-turn on his previous commitment to supporting civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples, Archbishop Justin Welby has endorsed the Church of England’s statement opposing them. The Church of England released a statement on Friday expressing its opposition to suggestions that the government may amend the equal marriage act to allow civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples. “We believe that this would introduce further confusion about the place of marriage in society,” it read. “We remain unconvinced that the introduction of such an option would satisfy a genuine and widespread public need, other than for those who pursue ‘equality’ as an abstract concept.”
And a group of 500 Imams have come out against the marriage equality bill, too. Joe.My.God reports:
A coalition of more than 500 imams have signed a joint letter denouncing Britain’s pending same-sex marriage bill. The Telegraph calls the letter “the first time that Muslim leaders have made a collective intervention on the issue and underlines the strength of feeling among ethnic minority voters.”
A straight rights amendment. Support for both the bill and the amendment in parliament and in the public. A possible delay of two years. Religious leaders inserting themselves into the debate. Who knows which way this will go?
Find more articles and gay wedding resources in the United Kingdom.